What is the Bowen Technique
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What is the Bowen Technique

The Bowen Technique was developed by Tom Bowen (1916-1982), of Geelong, Australia. It is a series of gentle moves on the muscle and connective tissue along the whole body, using the thumb and fingers. It is often easier to describe what the technique is not rather than what it is because it is so unlike any other modality. The technique does not involve osteopathy type manipulations, is not a form of massage, is not related to the Alexander Technique and is not derived from or similar to any other bodywork technique.
It is a non-invasive non-diagnostic holistic modality in which the moves are performed in a predetermined pattern, irrespective of the clients? complaint, though there are moves designed to address particular regions or areas of concern within the body. It can be performed with the patient stripped to underwear (preferably) or through light clothing, and each session lasts approximately 40-60 minutes. In many cases long-standing pain can be relieved in 2-3 sessions (and sometimes even after one session), although further treatments may be required in some situations. People who receive the therapy are continually amazed that a treatment which feels so gentle can be so effective. Nevertheless the technique works. The technique is safe for people of all ages and because it is so gentle, adults as well as children can be treated.
The Bowen Technique is a method that enables the body to heal itself. It allows the body to do the work required without imposing the will of the therapist onto the patient. The patient has the opportunity to relax while the practitioner makes subtle and fine adjustments which help to rebalance, relieve tension and reduce pain. One unusual feature of the technique is the short gaps during the treatment when the practitioner leaves the room. Though often considered strange to people having the therapy for the first time, this is an important part of the technique, allowing the body to rest and absorb the effects.
It has never been established how the technique works, though a number of theories have been proposed. The most common explanations are that it works by a combination of correcting imbalances of ki or chi energy as described in the Eastern tradition of healing, and as a result of muscular and soft tissue releases.
The History of the Bowen technique
The Bowen Technique was first pioneered by Mr. Tom Bowen of Victoria, Australia, in the 1950s. Along with his assistants, he allegedly treated an incredible 13,000 patients a year, most of whom only required two or three treatments. Bowen was not a man of 'theories' and apparently never explained how his technique worked, he simply taught his students what he did. To be more precise, he is reported to have said he only taught his students 10% of what he knew and that the other 90% they would have to find out for themselves. Be that as it may, what Bowen did teach these people obtained amazing results and continues to do so today. Oswald Rentsch, an osteopath, was one of a handful of people whom Tom Bowen taught. After Tom Bowen died in 1982 Ossie Rentsch subsequently taught the technique across the English speaking world.
Vibromuscular Harmonization Technique (VHT)
VHT was developed in 1997 by Jock Ruddock after reading and researching into the writings of Dr Kevin Ryan, the last person trained by Tom Bowen, who had worked in his clinic until Bowen's death in 1982.
Dr Ryan maintained that even up to the day before he was taken to hospital for the last time, Tom was amending adjusting and developing his work in a direction which bared no resemblance to the system he was using in the mid 1970's when Bowen taught Ossie Rentsch. (Note: Virtually all practitioners of Bowen technique are in fact practising Ossie Rentsch?s interpretation of Tom Bowen?s work whether or nor they were taught directly by him). Though some practitioners have described VHT as "advanced Bowen technique", its developer, Jock Ruddock prefers it to be regarded as a separate modality, though it does still retain the basic unique style of the 'Bowen move' at its core.
VHT does of course work extremely well in conjunction with the Bowen Technique in that individual VHT moves may be used at any point during a Bowen session. Alternatively a whole Bowen procedure may be substituted for a VHT procedure to achieve a more comprehensive and profound effect when addressing an area of concern. A third possibility is to perform an entire session using VHT moves alone.
I trained in VHT 3 years ago at the time of writing. A VHT session takes about the same amount of time as a Bowen session (40-60 minutes on average) but involves far more moves than the Bowen technique 'gentle touch' approach. Whereas Bowen technique theorises that in bodywork, "less is more", VHT subscribes to the view that for some people, far more Bowen style moves are useful than the minimalisitc approach generally being taught.
NST (Neurostructural Integration Technique)
NST, like VHT is a further development of the Bowen technique 'gentle touch' developed by Michael Nixon Levy. It also involves a lot of extra 'advanced' moves, and has a resemblance to VHT - in fact some of the moves are the same. I have not trained formally in this method, but I have had 5 sessions from another practitioner and after observing the work, incorporated some of the ideas, or my own modifications of them into my own approach to The Bowen Technique.
Mark has combined these approaches with many of his own own ideas into a system he calls "Bowen Technique Plus".
Bowen Technique Plus can bring effective relief from the following complaints:
(Note this list is not a comprehensive list of all the conditions that have responded but a cross section of some of the most common ones, which have been successfully addressed).

Back pain

Neck pain/ restriction

Whiplash injuries

Knee/ankle problems

Jaw (TMJ) pain



Sports injuries


Frozen shoulder

Tennis or Golfers Elbow

Repetitive Strain Injury


M.E. /Chronic fatigue syndrome

Groin strains/pain

Muscular problems

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Leg cramps

Lymph drainage


Prostate enlargement



Benign breast lumps/pain

Hay fever/Catarrh


Stress & tension


Indigestion/ Irritable Bowel

Colitis / Diverticulitis

Mark Lester & Bowen
Mark has combined the various Bowen inspired approaches together into a system he has coined Bowen technique Plus. He comes from a family which has been involved with complementary medicine since 1956. Mark was one of the first people in the UK to be taught the Bowen technique and has been using it in his practise since 1994. Mark trained in VHT after practicing Bowen for 5 years, and found that VHT could be used for all problems where Bowen technique might also be used. In some cases, such as for children, elderly people, very sensitive clients etc Bowen technique can be more suitable. However in many cases Mark finds that the results with VHT seem to be faster and more consistent.
Mark has seen great success with these modalities in relieving long-term pain (especially back and neck pain), sports injuries, catarrh, hay fever, asthma, digestive problems, and improving general health. Additionally many people have also commented on how relaxing they find Bowen & VHT, and on its stress relieving effects. A number of people have also commented on the beneficial effects it seems to have had on balancing them emotionally and mentally without the need for counseling etc.
In his own clinic, Mark combines Bowen with VHT, NST and a number of his own ideas about how the technique may be practised in whatever way is most appropriate for the patient. This is the system he calls Bowen Technique Plus.